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Artistic riches to be found in Whistler

Vancouver-based group of artists, Pieces of 8, brings treasures to town

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What: Pieces of 8 exhibition

When: Thursday, Sept. 3 to Sunday, Sept. 6

Where: Club Intrawest, 4580 Chateau Boulevard

Cost: Free!

To many art lovers, walking into an exhibition is like opening a treasure chest - you never know what gems lie within. Well, at a Whistler show next week, there is sure to be a wealth of artistic goodies to be discovered.

For the past six years Bev Ellis has been a member of the all-female art troupe known as Pieces of 8. A multidisciplinary artist, she has always had a passion for the arts, whether creating her own pieces or teaching all ages of aspiring artists tricks of the trade.

Fellow artist Donna Senft formed the collaborative creative group in Vancouver almost 13 years ago. Current members include Senft, Ellis, Herta Klassen, Winowna Steunenberg, Barb Pearson and Linda Madu. Each member has a distinctly different style and medium, ranging from collage, mixed media, watercolour and acrylic on canvas to archival prints, hand made scarves, sculpture and jewelry.

"The idea is a collaboration and a group of artists coming together and bringing with them both their techniques and their artwork and their lives, really, to create this beauty and this treasure," Ellis explained. "That's kind of where the Pieces of 8 come in - it's this treasure that we have that we love to be able to share together."

The group's name is a reference to pirate's treasure, made a bit clearer since the movie Pirates of the Caribbean came out.

"A lot of times, people didn't know - they thought, 'oh, is that a spin-off from the Group of Seven?'" Ellis said with a laugh.

Over the years, these artists have gained a reputation for their exhibitions, which have been featured at the Hotel Vancouver, Harrison Hotsprings Hotel, Sinclair Centre, and inside a Street of Dreams home.

"When you're with a bunch of people that do so many different things, it just adds a lot to what you're doing. It's inspiring, it's exciting, we don't become this melting pot - we retain our individuality - which makes the show really exciting because there's something for everybody."

For a limited time, Pieces of 8's artistic treasures will be on display in Whistler. The group has partnered with Club Intrawest to host one of their eclectic shows at their location across from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

"I've grown up going to Whistler to ski and vacation - I think most of us have," Ellis said. "We love Whistler, we love the rich arts community that it has, so it was just a logical community that's an extension of the Lower Mainland to visit."

The pieces on display will also be for sale.

"That's kind of the neat thing about the show is that there's just going to be an amazing range of price, as well," Ellis said. "You've got small pieces - a lot of them have done really small work which is original work, as well, so you can walk away from the show with a beautiful little hand-done piece."

The show opens on Thursday, Sept. 3 with an art preview from 6 to 9 p.m. and then continues on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will also be a wine, beer and cheese reception on Saturday, Sept. 5 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.; anyone interested in attending should contact whistlerconcierge@clubintrawest.com .

"Art is just a connection with people, and we just really enjoy getting out there and being able to meet with people - that's one of the reasons that we'll be present throughout the whole show, so that people can ask us about the art, give us feedback," Ellis said.

Ellis and the other members of Pieces of 8 also aim to aid the next generation of artists and encourage them to pursue art and art-making experiences. To help Whistler's aspiring artists, the group is donating a limited addition print on canvas, called The Artist, by Winowna Steunenberg, and holding a draw with all proceeds going to the Whistler Arts Council's annual Children's Festival. The charity draw will take place Sunday, Sept. 6 at 2:30 p.m.

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